Saturday, June 22, 2013

Iron Man to the rescue? HTC signs Robert Downey, Jr. to $12 million marketing deal

Can Iron Man rescue -- not the world -- but HTC? The troubled mobile device maker is betting $12 million on it, as actor Robert Downey, Jr. has been signed by the company to star in its advertising, it was reported on Thursday.

The actor won't portray either of his action film characters, the aforementioned Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, but instead himself, two sources with knowledge of the plans said. Downey will have final say over the creative elements of the marketing, which will likely involve him in print, TV and billboard advertising.

At one time HTC was a top-selling smartphone vendor, with explosive growth between 2010 and 2011. Since then, though, HTC has seen its market share slide dramatically as it faces strong competition from both Samsung and Apple. Samsung, in particular, can be seen as a thorn in HTC's side, as both firms build Windows Phone and Android devices.

Since HTC's heydays, Samsung has become the top cell phone, not just smartphone, OEM in the world, surpassing both Nokia and Apple. It's far more troubling than just that, though. HTC has fallen to ninth place in global smartphone shipments, according to market research firm IDC.

In addition, data compiled by Bloomberg shows that -- in addition to HTC posting its slimmest profit on record last quarter -- its sales are down 68 percent and its global smartphone market share is off 76 percent since its peak in the third quarter of 2011.

Still, is marketing the answer? Every time the company has debuted a boffo smartphone, it's been stymied by an equally great Samsung device. Witness this year, when the company released the HTC One, only to see Samsung release the Galaxy S4 shortly afterward.

Downey has been signed to a two-year-long marketing campaign, the report said.

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